Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are ubiquitous industrial chemicals, and many of them are produced in large volumes. Due to this fact, several BFRs are found in quantifiable levels in wildlife, as well as in humans. However, we are still lacking information on the effects of BFR in wildlife and, especially, in man. This review summarises the biological effects of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) and derivates, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), however excluding other aspects such as environmental levels. These BFR groups were selected because of a large volume production (PBDEs, TBBPA and derivates), and availability of some toxicity data in spite of much lower production volumes (HBCD and PBBs). In addition, the increase in levels of PBDEs in human (breast milk) and wildlife samples during later time made it especially interesting to include this BFR group. PBDEs: The commercial PBDE products predominantly consist of so-called penta-, octa- and decabromodiphenyl ether products. Each product consists of a rather narrow range of congeners and is named after the dominating congener as regards the bromination pattern. Generally, the PentaBDEs seem to cause adverse effects at the comparably lowest dose, whereas much higher doses were needed for effects of the DecaBDEs. The critical effects of PentaBDEs are those on neurobehavioural development (from 0.6 mg/kg body weight) and, at somewhat higher dose, thyroid hormone levels in rats and mice, of OctaBDEs on fetal toxicity/teratogenicity in rats and rabbits (from 2 mg/kg body weight), and of DecaBDEs on thyroid, liver and kidney morphology in adult animals (from 80 mg/kg body weight). Carcinogenicity studies, only performed for DecaBDEs, show some effects at very high levels, and IARC (1990) evaluates DecaBDEs not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans. TBBPA: The toxicity of TBBPA in the experimental in vivo studies is suggested to be low. In most reported studies, only doses in g/kg body weight were effective, but at least one study suggested renal effects at around 250 mg/kg body weight. Although difficult to include and interpret in a quantitative risk assessment, the in vitro effects on immunological and thyroid hormones, as well as binding to erythrocytes should be noted. Before a solid standpoint could be reached on TBBPA toxicity additional studies must be performed. This statement is even more valid regarding the TBBPA derivates, where there is an almost complete lack of toxicity data. HBCD: Also in the case of HBCD, relevant toxicity studies are lacking. Based on the present animal studies, a critical effect is seen in the liver and on thyroid hormones (LOAEL 100 mg/kg body weight/day). However, in a recent short paper behavioural effects in mice pups were observed already at 0.9 mg/kg body weight, and behavioural effects may be a sensitive endpoint for HBCD, as well as for other BFRs. PBBs: Due to the Michigan accident in 1973–1974, many toxicity studies on PBBs are available. The critical experimental effects are those on reproduction and carcinogenicity, and a NOAEL of 0.15 mg/kg body weight/day could be suggested based on the cancer effects. In man no unequivocal effects have been observed, although in some studies neurological and musculoskeletal symptoms were suggested. Based on the carcinogenic effects in animals, a human TDI of 0.15 μg/kg body weight has been presented. To conclude, the toxicity data are almost entirely based on experimental models. There are differences among the BFR groups, as well as within these groups, both regarding type of toxic effect and at what dose it appears. As BFRs will continue to appear both in industrial applications and, even if the production has ceased, in our environment, there is a continued need for effects studies on BFRs.
Environment International – Elsevier
Published: Sep 1, 2003
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